Sunday, March 17, 2013

(HERALD ZW) Kenya: Provoking the national sentiment

Kenya: Provoking the national sentiment
Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00

Habemus Papam!

In case you are not Catholic or Latin-speaking, “Habemus Papam” simply means “We have a Pope”, the Vatican way of announcing results for elections conducted secretly within their innermost sanctum! How sad! I am lost for words, which is why I am having to turn to the “mother country” for some aid to repair my limping tongue.

Thankfully, I do not have to travel all the way to London, that great cosmopolitan city, to obtain that repair. The “mother country” has its surrogate here by way of the indefatigable Deborah Bronnert, the British High Commi . . . sorry, British Ambassador to Zimbabwe.

In a typical one-shoe-fit-all-size diplomaticspeak, the beautiful mother lady, spoke thus: “It will be a shame if the government doesn’t invite the EU . . . If Zimbabwe wants to run a free and fair election I think it will be very powerful to have outsiders coming saying this is a free and fair election.”

No black Pope from white smoke!

Of course as my mother’s lesser son, I know her ways, know her manner of speech. She is just superb on the art of circumlocution.
When she has hard words for an unbecoming neighbour, she shouts at her through one of her sons, usually the lesser one. I am the lesser one, which is why it was wrong, is wrong and will always remain wrong, for the Vatican, itself the oldest caliphate, the oldest state, to go to the polls, conduct them, count them and even announce the result, without inviting the EU!

Indeed, as my mother says, the Vatican poll can’t be classified as free and fair, let alone as powerful, without “outsiders having come saying this is a free and fair election”. And outsiders cannot be Sadc, cannot be Comesa, cannot be the African Union. Still less NAM.
Outsiders can only be the EU with its rare, idiosyncratic skills which it wields sui generis! So no amount of “Habemus Papam” will cleanse this sin most foul, this rot so stinking, right up to the sickened heavens.

And the joke is on the Catholic Church. No smoke without a Pope, said one Zimbabwean, forever true to our national cast of finding the humorous side of things. Hau bakithi, went another, you expect a black Pope from white smoke? I give up.

[Pope Francis 1]

Pope Francis 1
The amazing story of Falklands
But I have more news for you, courtesy of my mother country, that slut always ruining, sorry, ruling the waives, sorry, waves. We had a poll, futi! A referendum! Yedu isu maBrutish, sorry, British! In Falklands, tione! Not this pretentious name “Las Malvinas” by which it is called by this mad woman called Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the President of Argentina.

What a bad name so badly spelt — Cristina — spelt without an English “h”! Falklands, our British Falklands. Listen to what happens when the ballot inhabits its natural lair. Listen! Of the 1 517 votes cast in the two-day referendum (for 1 517!) — on a turnout of more than 90 percent — a whooping 1 513 were in favour, while just three votes were against! No need for three black smokes as happens in the Vatican. Just one white smoke to yield a British-white result!

And the matter put to referendum was bore the simple ingenuity of the British people: “Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?” And hey, this was the mighty question put to the 1 672 British citizens eligible to vote, in a population of about 2 900!
Why are you laughing, dear reader? Or even asking after the fate of the 1 238 who were not eligible? Or the 155 eligible voters who stayed away?
Don’t be daft. Our amainini Rhodesia — little mother Rhodesia, gave us the answers in the federal late 1950s: “Equal rights for civilised men!” That Inimitable British electoral sensibility endures.
[Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner]

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Do you still wish to be colonisers?
Let us clinch the lesson from the great mother country. You occupy a country or territory, go to war to retain control of it against demands for sovereignty and independence.

There is some uneasy peace for decades, beyond which that irrepressible human urge for freedom begins to simmer once more. You quickly call for a referendum which you, and you alone — the coloniser — administers, supervises and certifies. The franchise is limited and the voters are not all who live on that occupied island, but only your own settlers plus the very few you have scoured clean enough to be your other children, truly lesser.

Mathematically, that formulae virtually balances the sum total of those who vote against plus those disenfranchised, as against those who voted, all in a referendum which Sadc, Comesa, AU and NAM cannot supervise, they being outside the competent EU! In other words it is a referendum for and of British settlers on La Malvinas, who are being asked whether or not they still wish to be colonisers! History can be crazy!

When the establishment spoke

Just visualise it in our own historical circumstances: the British running a referendum here to ask Ian Smith and his white Rhodesian gangs whether or not they still want to remain rulers of Rhodesia! What answer do you expect?

What answer are you expecting? And after getting that axiomatic result, you proceed to intimate with a piety stronger than that of Papa Francis: “We have always been clear that we believe in the rights of the Falklands people to determine their own futures and to decide on the path they wish to take. It is only right that, in the 21st Century, these rights are respected.

“All countries should accept the results of this referendum and support the Falkland islanders as they continue to develop their home and their economy. I wish them every success in doing so.”

Wise words from Cardinal Hague the foetal foreign minister of Britain pontificating on this resounding democratic breakthrough! The pope himself, David Cameron was even more pointed and emphatic: “The Falkland islands may be thousands of miles away but they are British through and through, and that is how they want to stay, and the people should know we will always be there to defend them.

“I think the most important thing about this result is that we believe in self-determination, and the Falkland islanders have spoken so clearly about their future, and now other countries right across the world, I hope, will respect and revere this very, very clear result . . . They want to remain British and that view should be respected by everybody, including by Argentina.”

[Ian Smith]

Ian Smith

When far is near, and near, very far

Dear reader, this archipelago claimed by Britain is miles upon miles away from continental Europe. It is on another sub-continent we call South America, but a spit away from Argentina, the country which lays claim to it. Between the island and Britain, our mother country, are furlongs upon furlongs of very blue oceans — two to three mighty ones depending of course on how you plan your very tedious journey to the Falklands.

And from the vantage point of the South Pacific, the issue is not about the inhabitants; rather, it is about the islands themselves, that is, whether they are a territory of contiguous Argentina, or of very faraway Britain seeking to project its power imperially across the vast waves.

But I have another imponderable. Britain which has no problem in imagining a British territory across such vast distances, has quite a vast problem in supporting “one China policy” that would see Taiwan, itself a geographic province of China, itself a stone-throw away from the mainland, rejoining the mainland. And all this even after giving back Hong Kong! How imperial geography makes nonsense of common sense and logic, indeed how it becomes real history! In the meantime, let us all make merry. Habemus Papam!

The electoral “overseas territory”

Let us fly back home to engage Ambassador Deborah Bronnert well before her brow turns inert. Engage her together with her lesser son, Morgan Tsvangirai. It was very revealing that the lady ambassador still insisted, after being told Zimbabwe would allow many observer missions from other regions, that Zimbabwe could only be well observed by the EU and no other.

Of course this was her polite way of saying that Zimbabwe should be observed by Britain which regards it as its “Overseas Territory” electorally.

By the way Vice President Mujuru, and after her, Foreign Minister Mumbengegwi, had made it abundantly clear that Zimbabwe would not allow countries which have slapped it with sanctions to observe her elections. Said Mumbengegwi: “To be an observer, you have to be objective and once you impose sanctions on one party, your objectivity goes up in smoke.” He added: “I do not see why they need to be invited when they have never invited us to monitor theirs.”

Situating filiality in history
Of course the minister, ironically a man who once served as our ambassador in the mother country, did not seem to understand the essence of British claim to a special role in observing our elections. That claim is not founded on contemporary politics and relations. Or on the hackneyed principle of reciprocity. It is simply founded on our filial relations with Britain, relations so rooted in history, imperial history. This is our mother wishing to monitor or observe us. You do not need to raise any whys and wherefores. You simply comply if you care to escape the curse of prodigality. In short, this is Her Excellency’s message to us, a message well steeped in history.
The only trouble is we don’t seem to grasp the full lessons of our short history as “British protected persons”! Sir Godfrey Huggins, our Federal Prime Minister in the late fifties of our Southern Rhodesia defined our place and role in the scheme of things.

He said: “We want to indicate to the Africans that provision is made for them to have a place in the sun, as things go along. But we have not the slightest intention of letting them control things until they have proved themselves, and perhaps not even then. That will depend on our grandchildren . . . Political control must remain in the hands of civilised people, which for the foreseeable future means the Europeans.”

I know Minister Mumbengegwi read history and will fully grasp the import of all this. If this was in the fifties, late fifties at that, we are still far from Huggins’ “grandchildren” upon whom all shall depend. Equally, we are still within the cycle of the “foreseeable future”, which means still within the political cycle where political control remains “in the hands of civilised hands, the Europeans”. And Deborah is making a case for Europeans, is she not? And making it with the passionate conviction only capable of being mustered by one of them.
After all, she was here in 1980, never mind that then as a mere housewife who often volunteered to teach us, her children. Today she comes back to us with greater powers over us.

In political denial . . . then acceptance
But we seem to take long to grasp that in postcolonial circumstances, political power gets wielded in a slightly different way. You no longer govern.
You dictate who governs, and the smarter way of doing so is by retaining the final say, is by wielding the imprimatur over vital processes on the governance of your former colony.
I say we don’t follow the movement of history and the evolution of ever-changing relations between a mother country and its colony. Under direct settler colonial rule, the white rulers would not agree that they were facing a political problem over the native question. Listen to Sir Edgar Whitehead, our former white Prime Minister: “I know my Africans and they are not interested in politics . . . They are interested only in things of immediate practical concern . . . Schools for their children, the improvement of their land, raising their standard of living and things of that kind.”

And if you think this was a forlorn thought by an idiosyncratic prime minister, here is Sir Roy Welensky, the second Federal Prime Minister: “Believe me...the troubles of this country of ours are not political, they are economic.” Then years pass by until we sweep away the settler regime, to become a brand new Republic of Zimbabwe.

Nine years pass and about 1989, the western world, led by the World Bank, draw up new rules for the neo-colonial game. In a widely publicised, epochal statement contained in the Bank report for that year, Africa’s problem is defined anew as one of “crisis of governance”.
Elaborated by leading “Africanist scholars like Hyden, Chazan, Rothchild, Ravenhill, Mortimer et al, this reckoning becomes the operating ethic in global politics, principally in the interface between North and South.

Politics that need fixing
I am not interested in the global picture. Rather, I am interested in my little Zimbabwe and how the great question gets re-framed at different stages of our national life, well away from and after both Whitehead and Welensky.
From a position of stoutly denying that politics had anything to do with it, there is a sea-change to acknowledge that indeed politics is what needs fixing, Tendai Biti’s favourite imagery from elementary carpentry.

Zimbabwe’s politics are what is wrong. Those must be fixed first and foremost, including through coercive interventions! Except something has happened.
The white man has been forced to evacuate the political deck, thanks to the liberation struggle.
The black man is now in the driving seat of national politics. And when the white world says it is Zimbabwe’s politics which are wrong, we don’t seem to fully grasp their full meaning which is one of causally linking this wrong turn in our politics on the one hand, and our ascension to power, on the other. We are the cause of that wrong turn - in fact that wrong turn - which is why we have Deborah Bronnert on hand to make sure Europeans don’t “show the slightest intention of letting them (the natives) control things until they have proved themselves.”
We are still within the zone of the “ foreseeable future”, the era of Europeans well before the advent of their grandchildren who might - and “might” is the word - who might decide to relinquish the real reins.

The argument that keeps changing
Of course something else has happened: finally the native has indeed agreed with both Edgar Whitehead and Welensky that the real problem is economic. The Land. The Minerals. The economy. Land reforms. Indigenisation.
But the white man has since moved into another sphere, that of finally conceding that indeed the problem of “my African” is political, all to detract the African attention from the economy!
It is a see-saw clearly showing that our interests as an African people will never coincide, let alone agree with those of Europeans. When we are grappling with the question of fixing the unfair politics of settler colonialism so we win our right to vote, to govern, the white man tells us our problem is economic. When later, after freeing ourselves, and now seek to fix our place in the economic sun, the white man changes to the very argument he repudiated at the relevant time.
He tells us that we need good politics, not the economy. And we all remember being told Zimbabweans don’t need land, they need human rights.
Being told Zimbabweans don’t need ownership, only jobs! But when Morgan Tsvangirai, our Prime Minister strains and cranes his neck to make a case for European observers, you see the vast consciousness distance we have to travel before we finally reach La Malvinas!

When choices have consequences
Still on elections, Kenya last week went through the electoral motions and what we have from that East African country is a happy conclusion arising from nothing else but the sheer determination of the Kenyan people to assert their sovereign rights as a people.
What a beautiful story! How proud I am to share colour and continent with them! Again, we must read matters, and read them correctly.
After all, we have a lot in common with Kenya, much of it deriving from a cruel colonial history. Both of us had good soils, themselves for us a fatal attraction to the British. Of course we had mosquitoes, but not in enough swarms to overwhelm the white man away from occupying us.

In that regard, West Africa did quite well, thereby escaping the indomitable phenomenon of settler colonialism. Kenya and Zimbabwe became home to the British overseas landed gentry. We are settler colonies, if truth be told.
This has been our curse, a fate we continue to grapple against. We also have resources, natural resources which make us a permanent British interest, a permanent British playground.
The British won’t go away, not even leave us alone. Or agree to live and let live. And to make sure we remain their chattel, they routinely disturb our politics, our political environment.
Stir it, stir it, stir, stir and stir, while fishing and fishing in those troubled waters. And elections are one good opportunity of stirring the pot, without having to muster hard reasons for justifying it.
As before, the British, through their Kenyan Ambassador to Kenya, meddled the same way we begin to see Bronnert trying to do here, starting with the issue of election observers. And the Americans, forever prone to blatant, hideous interference, meddled in the affairs of Kenya with the sheer abandon of a bully living before the era of slings, or of daring Davids.
Their Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, one Johnnie Carson - a pitch dark African-African American - had the audacity to tell the Kenyan voter that choosing Kenyatta was up to Kenyans, but who must know that “choices have consequences”! Haa-aa?
A black man, buoyed by American might, hectoring and threatening the African voter to vote in a certain direction? Clearly this is a stage higher than being observed! You are being told who not to vote for, which means being told who to vote for, is that not so? Told by “inventors” of democracy! Told by democracy’s shibboleth!
[PM Morgan Tsvangirai]

PM Morgan Tsvangirai

Rebranding us a convict continent
Still the Kenyans went to vote, and as we have seen, went into the voting booth wielding a Kenyan mind. More accurately, carrying a Mau Mau mind. They were not about to be distracted, not about to be intimidated by this man from afar, yet wearing their colour, their skin.
Swiftly, they proceeded to do as they were not told. They voted in Uhuru Kenyatta, and his running mate - equally reviled by Americans - one William Ruto.
Both men have been indicted by that court serving the white world, that weird court dutifully lending a patina of legality to disreputable western pursuits against the lesser world.

But Kenya has installed the West’s wanted men, a defendant president. We wait to see who wins. Not waiting idly, for we are players.
Not too long ago, in fact mid-last year, Africa voted to pass a vote of no confidence in the so-called ICC, a court madly driven by countries which are yet to assent to its founding protocols.

Had it not been for President Museveni who hoped to use the ICC against Joseph Kony, Africa would have taken a firm position on the matter at the UN. Africa deferred.
But today Africa has two of its sitting leaders facing indictment, another two undergoing trial or already serving spurious sentences.
That same Africa once branded a human zoo, today faces a new brand as a convict continent, well ahead of Australia, itself genetically a convict colony.
Africa cannot defer the matter any longer, thanks to this Kenyan result. This is the Kenyan poll that is set to change the continent.

Trouble for Kenya
In case you thought Carson was a fluke. Here is how the British establishment columnist, one Simon Tisdall, put it. Headlined “Kenyatta victory promises trouble for Kenya”, Tisdall acknowledges the British High Commissioner to Kenya was accused of “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement” in Kenyan elections, are there is no prize for guessing this meddling was on the side of Odinga, our Tsvangirai’s political cousin.
It was to skew the vote so it goes the British way, something not quite new to them, given what they did to Nigeria’s founding poll at her Independence.

But it is the headline which speaks volumes. Why should voting for a candidate of choice boomerang on Kenya if the ballot is supposed to be free and fair, indeed a way of discovering a people’s will in respect of who shall govern them?
It becomes plain clear that the ballot need not be free; it needs to be pliant in the direction of western interests, much like that of Falklands.
Kenyan ballot has proved hard to bridle, proved rather brittle, which is why it “promises trouble for Kenya”.
And as a Zimbabwean, I can readily tell Kenya that indeed trouble will come as punishment for ever daring to make a choice, your choice. Again, here is one huge lesson that Kenya has for the rest of the continent.

Congratulating “all those elected to office”
But how did western governments receive this result from Kenya? Let us look at John Kerry, Carson’s boss at the State Department. He congratulated “all those elected to office”, thereby escaping the burden of having to mention the winners by name. He added, “We stand with you (the Kenyan people) at this historic moment and will continue to be a strong friend and ally of the Kenyan people.”
The bind is very clear: you cannot acknowledge the Kenyatta-Ruto win, but you have no problem in congratulating and seeking the friendship of the very people whose vote created the foreign policy bind for the mighty US! And US provided the template, with the rest of European capitals “tiptoeing” around Kenyatta’s name, to use Reuters’ dramatic imagery.
Carson was not mad, after all. Yet Kenya, like Zimbabwe, in fact more than Zimbabwe, means a lot for the West, principally US which has military bases on Kenyan soil, not to mention oil interests, the latter alongside Britain and Canada. That is as far as the West is concerned.

In the words of one Wainaina.
Here on the continent, we watchfully follow what Raila Odinga does, or will do, to validate his claims
[Raila Odinga]

Raila Odinga
to democratic credentials. Will he be a graceful loser, thereby showing his young cousin here - Morgan Tsvangirai - a good behaviour template, come June twenty-something when we go for our own polls? In Kenyatta Africa has been taught how to win with humility and magnanimity. Will Africa find in Raila lessons on how to bow out in dignity, and with little noise, after losing?
Arguably the most important lesson for Africa, its politicians - genuine or surrogate - is that the African voter has evolved towards greater self-realisation and self-power. Kenya has been one hell of some voter epiphany, a great moment of sudden self-realisation.
I will summon Binyavanga Wainaina to make the point in his native idiom. Writing in the British Guardian, Wainaina wrote: “Nobody believes, for example, that the international criminal court is serious enough, strong enough or material enough to the political reality in Kenya to make much of a difference.

“We are not, and have never been, a CNN African country, held together by western pins and glue, pity, bananas and paternal concern.
“Three years ago we were ready to succumb. There were bars in Kenya called Ocampo. I saw one in Kisii town called The Hague. “The idea of global justice was heroic. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the international criminal court, would swoop down with international investigators in parachutes and uniforms and take away the suspects and try them and we would be fine.
“How naive. Today, there is a real possibility that none of the cases will go anywhere. We have come to see the track record of the ICC and doubt it. Bungled Congo. More bungled Sudan.
“The ICC came swooping when we were deeply vulnerable - at the lowest point in our history.
“Now, it seems toothless. More than anything, it seems to want to use the Kenya cases to make itself legitimate as a meaningful global institution.
“We are not keen at all to be playing that sort of experiment”.

[Francis Muthaura]

Francis Muthaura

Good-boy countries no longer
This is a new, proud Africa, greatly assertive, spitting at the West without a feeling it is futilely spitting at the heavens. An Africa which, as does Wainaina, tells powerful institutions like ICC to “go and build their court properly, and then come back and talk to us when it is grown up, when there are a few convictions of people who are not Africans.”
And there are bolder words: “Gone are the days when a bunch of European ambassadors speak in confident voices to the Kenyan public about what we should do, why we should do it. Naughty boys and girls, we are not happy.

“We look forward to making stronger ties with India, to trading more with China and Brazil. We look forward to being no longer the nice beach-and-safari kind of country we have allowed ourselves to be for too long. The west should expect more defiance from an Uhuru government - and more muscular engagement. That is part of the reason he has won this election. No Cote-d’Ivoireing here thank you.

“You see what happens to the good-boy countries who do what they are told?”
Need I write more? Probably just to add that as I write this paragraph, the ICC has since withdrawn charges against Francis Muthaura, Kenyatta’s co-accused.
That is what happens when you provoke Africa, thereby stirring up her national sentiment. Africa’s time might have come. Just.




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